In this personal essay, Prerna Kalbag and Nishant Singh muse about the changes in life post the pandemic and how reading and working has changed during isolation.
The world has halted. The clocks have stopped. Perhaps for the first time since the advent of the Enlightenment, humanity is in headlong retreat. Every experience of going outside, even for such mundane things as getting groceries, is tinged with the terror and the superstition that the first Men who sailed the seas must have felt. An invisible Gorgon stalks us everywhere, her evil eye is warded off by a diligent ritual of cleansing and sanitization. This fails many times, as people still succumb to the horrid unknown, un-understood illness. Yes, the promise of Enlightenment, which was deemed to have been a mirage a century ago, has finally, completely disappeared, as humanity has once again embraced the irrationality that had been deemed by smug college professors as “medieval”.
Yet, we live. We must live, and we must work. If only because we have absolutely nothing else to do.
Kitaab Singapore is delighted to announce that it has contributed a sum of SGD 200 (over INR 10,000) from the e-publication of Tabish Khair’s QUARANTINED SONNETS: Sex, Shakespeare and Money to a Singaporean Charity, Migrant Workers’ Centre, towards the Migrant Workers’ Assistance Fund.
The ebook was published to raise money for migrant workers. We thank all our readers and supporters for buying e-copies of the book.
Living with a pandemic can be testing and full of surprises (both pleasant and unpleasant). Verena Tay shows us a glimpse of her journal entries during the pandemic to show us life, as she sees it.
Some say there is value in writing down the minutiae of life, no matter how trivial, as a record of what happened for posterity. In this pandemic period, some say it is even more important to do so because these are unique and historic times that one must remember. Surely future generations will be keen to find out about the experiences of those who lived through Covid-19 so that they can draw some kind of significance for their own lives?
However, why journal about these times when so many of my contemporaries are making their own chronicles, now that literacy and art-making are more widespread? What about the importance of noting down my own perspective? Ah… Not much has really happened during the last few months for me.
The poem presents a situation where all around the world people are doing one form or another of counting. Numbers have come into the foreground in our pandemic days. As I was becoming more and more aware of how random numbers began to affect our lives in unexpected ways, I decided to write a poem that would reflect both the despairing and hopeful feelings oscillating within us with regards to these numbers.
While writing this poem I became very conscious of Tennyson’s melancholy and how his poems often moved from despair to that of faith and hope. I decided I would intersperse the stanzas in my poem with lines from various Tennyson poems to heighten the effect on the numbers and their connotations. I believe the intertextuality in the poems takes the poem to a new dimension.
As a book-lover, if there is one thing that we might have missed in this lockdown the most, then it would be bookshops and libraries. So here’s a bit of happy news for all the book lovers in Singapore.
The National Library Board has announced that, “The National Library Building, the National Archives of Singapore building, our 25 public libraries and the Former Ford Factory will reopen to the public on 1 July 2020 with shorter opening hours and capacity controls in place. This is in line with the safe reopening measures under Phase 2 and to safeguard the health and safety of our patrons and staff.”
It didn’t sink in until the grocery store, staring down a $9 jar of pickles. And it was only when I got to the candy aisle that I turned around and said, “I graduated!” out loud, defending the non-essential purchase. After that, I said “I graduated” to everything. Organic apple cider from Atkins, an extra bottle of Arizona, recipes from home via BooksActually’s free international delivery for any 3 local titles.
The family Zoom celebration spiralled into politics: crackling voices fighting for the same cause, but to be louder about it. When the lack of a Premium plan ended the conversation at precisely 40 minutes, nobody was dismayed.
Apart from the pandemic, globally we seem to be battling on so many other fronts as well. From floods to forest fires, the natural calamities around us are scary. Every day as we wake up, our hearts pray for some good news amidst all the chaos that surrounds us. And it is this positivity which has helped us stay afloat. Positive stories of humanity, compassion and love show us how together, we will come out of this stronger and better.
“In times of this corona pandemic, people often ask when the world will return to its normal days! Don’t wait for normal days! Assume that abnormal days are normal days! Today’s abnormal normal is now our new normal! The world may not return to its old days; the smart person is the person who adapts to the changing world! All days are normal as long as you adjust yourself to the changes no matter how dramatic these changes are!”